Federal File

October 11, 2000 1 min read

Happy Birthday, IDEA: Fans of the main federal law on students with disabilities came together on Capitol Hill last week to celebrate the law’s upcoming 25th birthday.

President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-142, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, on Nov. 29, 1975. Representatives from the Department of Education and Congress, along with disability-rights advocates and current special education students, convened last Thursday to discuss the law’s impact and the work ahead.

“We’re in a different place today,” declared Judith E. Heumann, the department’s assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services. “Certainly, we see that good things are going on for disabled children, but there are still many cases where this isn’t happening appropriately.”

Two of the main lobbyists for what was originally called the Education for All Handicapped Children Act moderated the half-day event. Joseph Ballard, who is now retired from the Council for Exceptional Children, and Paul Marchand, the chairman of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, couldn’t help but reminisce when they saw each other at the Senate snack bar last week, as they had many times in 1975.

“It was déjà vu all over again,” Mr. Marchand said.

The participants also honored Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley and several members of Congress for their work on the IDEA.

Budget Update: Mr. Riley and several members of Congress missed the IDEA event, however, because they were discussing the education budget with President Clinton.

Although the new fiscal year began Oct. 1, Congress passed a “continuing resolution” on Sept. 29 to keep the government open without a new budget. Congress has until Oct. 14 to approve a spending bill or pass another measure to continue funding.

— Joetta L. Sack